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Is It Worth It To Work? IL Families Struggle After Child-Care Cuts

Cuts to Illinois' Child Care Assistance Program are leaving some working families struggling to afford child care. Credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile
Cuts to Illinois' Child Care Assistance Program are leaving some working families struggling to afford child care. Credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile
August 26, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration says difficult decisions have to be made to manage the $4 billion budget.

The governor filed an "emergency rule," narrowing eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program, a change that Emily Miller, director of policy and advocacy for Voices for Illinois Children, said impacts nine out of 10 low-income families who were receiving help to pay for child care.

"This isn't a free ride," she said. "This is help for families who are low-income and trying to work themselves out of poverty so that they have the tools they need to be able to provide for their families, to be able to go to work every day."

According to federal data, 14 percent of Illinois residents are living at or below the federal poverty level. Child-care eligibility was reduced from parents earning from about $3,700 a month to $1,200 a month for a family of four. Teen parents, parents of children with special needs, and parents receiving welfare still are eligible. Meanwhile, a House panel met Tuesday to discuss funding options for child-care assistance for working parents.

By filing an emergency rule, Rauner sidestepped the input of lawmakers and the public. Miller explained her view of the math in action.

"Unfortunately, the rules that the governor put into place make it far more financially responsible for parents to choose not to work," she said. "The cost of childcare is cost prohibitive; they pay more than they make."

Miller said children's advocates also are concerned about the transfer of an established child-welfare official. Linda Saterfield was removed as association director for the Office of Early Childhood at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Miller said she believes Saterfield was ousted for testifying to lawmakers that the cuts would be devastating.

"Anybody who's worked in public policy knows that it's the exchange of ideas that actually moves the ball forward," she said, "and you can't just get rid of people because they dare to express something that's different from you."

The department said that Saterfield was transferred to the Office of Adult Services and Basic Support for "internal personnel reasons."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL